moderation, moral courage, self-denial, self-discipline
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent and comes 46 days before Easter. Since Easter itself is a movable feast, Ash Wednesday can happen on any Wednesday from February 4th to March 10th. Ash Wednesday is really a Pagan festival, having only been adopted by the Christian Church in 325 AD by Constantine the Great. (Although almost all Christians will deny it, most, if not all Christian Festivals are built on the back of festivals from other and older religions, civilisations, and cultures.)
Lent and Easter is a long festival of Spring ~ in fact the modern English words Lent and Lenten derive from the Old English word Lencten, which means Spring. As it happens, even the English word Easter derives from the Goddess Oestar / Ostara / Éostre, the Pagan Goddess of Spring, (one of them).
Which begs a couple of questions. Firstly, when does spring begin? Conventionally, in the Northern Hemisphere, in England in particular, Spring starts at the vernal equinox, or on the night of March 20th / 21st. Stonehenge and similar ancient monuments were set up to predict and confirm these astronomical events. And secondly, what does Lent have to do with Spring? And I believe the answer to that is in ancient times the end of winter, coming up to Springtime at the vernal equinox, was a time of hunger, starvation, and hard work preparing the land for spring planting. Ergo, in ancient times people would fast during what is modern Lent, not out of choice, but of absolute necessity.
The deeper one goes into the rituals, superstitions, and deities of these old cultures the more connected to the seasons everything seems to be. Persephone, the beautiful Greek Goddess of Spring, (Roman Proserpina), was also the Goddess of Death and the Underworld. That makes perfect sense because the end of winter, when the food was running out and the weather was bad, would be when the old, young, and infirm were very likely to die.
So, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the time leading up to Spring, makes perfect sense when looked at from the point of view of our ancestors. It’s not really time for a festival, carnival, or feasting ~ it’s more a time of self-denial and self-discipline.
It all makes sense in terms of the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha too. The end of winter is a time of pain and suffering. Indulging our wants, desires, and lusts just makes everything worse. The road to freedom from suffering is through self-discipline in body, mind, and spirit. The way to get through those hard days at the end of winter would have been through self-discipline in body, mind, and spirit.
So starting today, what am I giving up for the 46 days of Lent? It’s going to be something difficult. Starting today I will not take impulsive and negative actions when I have negative thoughts and feelings like; anger, jealousy, insecurity, anxiety, or fears of abandonment ~ all those old symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder. I know that I will have those negative feelings, I just won’t let them get to me.
Maybe I should have decided to give up chocolate instead ~ I’ve already given up booze.
Maybe I’ll just lock myself in the garret for Lent.